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Romanian pilots first solo flights on F-16A MLU

November 27, 2014 (by Alex Trandafir) - Following the contract signed in October 2013 with Portugal, for the purchase of 12 F-16 MLU aircraft, Romania becomes the 26th country to introduce the F-16 Fighting Falcon in service.

Romanian Air Force Lt.Col. Constantin Andrei ready to start the engine prior to his first F-16 solo flight on November 26th, 2014. [Photo by Alex Trandafir]

The Romanian Air Force F-16 acquisition program is an essential element for transformation, introducing a new operation, training and logistic support philosophy.

One year after contract signature, on September 30th, 2014, the first Romanian detachment of 23 pilots, aircraft maintainers and mission planners landed on Monte Real airbase in Portugal and began the training program on the F-16 MLU.

The initial training of the Romanian personnel is led by Lieutenant colonel Afonso “Jackal” Gaiolas, former commander of the 301st Squadron "Jaguares", one of the most experienced instructor pilots of the Portuguese Air Force, and consisted in academics and simulation training, followed by the F-16BM two seater sorties, starting on November 5th. Lieutenant colonel João Rosa, the 201st Squadron "Falcões" commander, is the second instructor pilot assigned to the Romanian pilots training in Portugal.

Although the rainy weather slowed somehow the initial flying training progress, on November 22nd the three Romanian pilots of the detachment completed their last check-ride were and were ready for their first solo flights. Tuesday, November 26th marked a major milestone of the training program, when Lieutenant colonel Constantin Andrei, became the first Romanian pilot to take-off in an F-16A MLU for his first solo ride.

Just a couple hours after that Lieutenant colonel Catalin Miclos, became the second Romanian pilot to fly solo on an F-16. The third pilot of the detachment, Major Mihaita Marin took off in the morning of November 27th, for his first solo on the F-16A MLU.

The first Romanian pilots to be trained on F-16 are qualified as instructors on the MiG-21 Lancer. Their flight experience on the MiG-21 Lancer, upgraded with F-16-like avionics, the Romanian Air Force training programs to employ NATO tactics, technics and procedures, as well as their language skills contributes to the success of the F-16 training program.

The first Romanian pilots will remain in Portugal until they will conclude the Mission Qualification Training and following that they will return to Romania qualified as instructors and ready to train the other pilots of the first Romanian Air Force F-16 squadron. By the end of the program a number of 9 Romanian pilots will be trained in Portugal.

The Portuguese Air Force instructors are very satisfied with the progress of the Romanian pilots. “Proud and Confident. That's how the Romanian people should feel about their Air Force men and women responsible for the F -16 project. Proud because they are doing a great job and Confident because the future of the Romanian Air Power is guaranteed and in good hands. Impressed. That's how I feel, as I watch daily the tremendous amount of effort put on this task and the striking set of skills and determination showed.” declared Lt. Col. Rosa.